Best Hill Walks in Wales
There’s an absolute wealth of hill walking and mountain trails on offer in Wales, it’s criminal to set our sights on only three of these welsh mountain walks.
These vary from easier walks (Moel Famau) to proper mountain walks that require fitness, skill and preparation. Footpaths in Wales are rarely waymarked other than at the very start, and then only marked as the start of a footpath with no indication of where it may lead. It often comes as a shock to visitors that the popular walking routes up Snowdon are only marked at the start, with a few choice stone markers near the top the only way markers you’ll see! If you cannot use a map and compass, then you should join a guided walk. Guided walks up Snowdon aren’t overly expensive, and usually cost under £50 per person.
Have we missed any? Probably. We’re certain that anyone who goes out and walks these will be well versed in the mountains of Wales, and will surely be able to seek others out (cough, cough, Rhinog Fawr, cough, cough)..
Moel Famau is the highest point of the Clwydian Range. While it falls well short of mountain status, the views won’t disappoint. It can be walked up and down in a couple of hours on an easy trail from the Moel Famau Car park near the Loggerheads Country Park outside Mold.
Those who make it to the summit of Moel Famau will be greeted with the Jubilee Tower, which was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III in 1810, but never completed. What remains is the base, after the partially completed tower was damaged in a storm in 1862. By looking at the ruins, one can only imagine how impressive this would have looked once completed. Those lacking imagination, can watch this video below.
More Details can be found – Moel Famau from Moel Famau Car Park
Cader Idris Minffordd Path
The Minffordd Path up Cader Idris is just as good as anything Snowdon has to offer. Setting off along a steep path through a wooded gorge, the path then emerges with views into Cwm Cau over Llyn Cau. These views become more extensive as the path first ascends the subsidiary summit of Craig Cwm Amarch as it curves around Cwm Cau before the final climb to the summit. You can either descend the same way or down via Mynydd Moel for a circular route.
Follow the link for more information on all the walks up Cader Idris.
Wyddfa – South Ridge
I’ll admit, the previous choice is the obvious Cader Idris walk. However, when it comes to the routes up Snowdon then it’s often the PYG Track or Watkin Paths that take the honours. The walk up Snowdon South ridge isn’t even recognised as an official route up! Not that I’m complaining, as it keeps this beautiful walk reasonably quiet. It can be ascended from Rhyd Ddu, or for the more scenic route by setting off on the Watkin Path from Nant Gwynant. The ridge is largely a walk, with one ‘bad step’ that needs the use of hands to scramble up. The final approach across Bwlch Main is shared with the Rhyd Ddu path, and is an absolute delight to walk. The exposure is with you as you cross this narrow, green ridge which should have been named the Crib Glas (Green Ridge) as a foil to Crib Goch (Red Ridge). It is over far too soon, and unless you decide to descend another route, then you get to walk it twice!
What the Nantlle Ridge lacks in height, it makes up for in attitude. With a total of seven summits on the full traverse, this mountain range has it all in a tiny package. The full traverse from Rhyd Ddu to Nebo is only around 14km in length, while the Half Nantlle (Garn – Trum y Ddysgl and down to Bwlch y Ddwy Elor) can be completed in an afternoon. The highlight of the route has to be the grade 1 scramble over Mynydd Drws y Coed. You’ll need a head for heights, but it’s nowhere near the exposure levels of something like Crib Goch. The route is a roller coaster ride, and doesn’t settle down until you reach the highest point on Craig Cwm Silyn and the wide summit plateau. It then finishes with a splutter on Mynydd Graig Goch, a grassy plateau with a rocky tor for a summit.
You will need to organise your return to Rhyd Ddu with another car or by taxi, though you can conceivably return to Rhyd Ddu the way you came and complete a double traverse of the Nantlle Ridge. That’s probably the recommended route if you finish on Craig Cwm Silyn and then cut the return route short by descending the Half Nantlle route.
Tryfan and the Glyderau
Tryfan is without a doubt the most iconic mountain in Wales, and possibly the UK. It dominates the view for anyone driving along the A5 between Bethesda and Capel Curig, and its central location means it’s visible from most walks as well. The Glyderau are also worth the effort, with their unique summit plateaus, the shattered spires of Castell y Gwynt and the immovable Cantilever stones all providing ample photo opportunities.
It needs to be said that Tryfan should only be attempted by experienced hill walkers as there are no easy ways up. The classic route up is via Tryfan’s North Ridge, a relentless 600m scramble with plenty of opportunity to find yourself off-path and onto even trickier ground. On the summit you’ll find the twin monoliths of Adam and Eve, and those with a head for heights can opt to jump from one to the other for bragging rights.
A less technical option is the traverse of the Glyderau range, starting with Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and then finishing off on Tryfan via the South Ridge. However, it must be noted that recent landslides have made the descent from Glyder Fawr on the Miner’s Track a but trickier.
More information here – Garn, Glyderau and Tryfan Walk.
High Carneddau – Carnedd Dafydd and Llewelyn
The list would not be complete without climbing Carnedd Llewelyn, the second highest mountain in Wales. There is a notorious ascent direct from Ogwen, however we recommend the straightforward scramble up Pen yr Ole Wen’s eastern ridge. This brings you steeply up to the summit of Pen yr Ole wen, and the start of a wonderful ridge walk to Carnedd Dafydd and on to Carnedd Llewelyn.
From Wales’ second mountain, care is needed to find the descent path towards Bwlch Eryl Farchog and even more care to negotiate the tricky bad step that brings you onto the bwlch. From here the route returns to the start via Ffynnon Llugwy, but if you still have fuel in the tank then you can continue over Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach, no small feat.
More information – The High Carneddau from Ogwen.
Cadair Berwyn from Llandrillo
The Berwyn hills are probably the least well known on this list, but they deserve much more recognition than that. The southern approach includes a visit to what is claimed to be Wales’ highest waterfall at Pistyll Rheadr.
From the north, the routes are longer, with the route from Llandrillo and returning via Cwm Pennant being a big day in the hills.
Once on the ridge, the walker is greeted with wide vistas and large skies, a much more open feeling than crowded Eryri. Beware that parts of these hills can be boggy, and they’re best tackled after a dry spell or during a hard frost.
More information – All the Walks up Cadair Berwyn.
Cnicht and Moelwynion
Cnicht is also known as the Welsh Matterhorn, a worn cliché by now, but when viewed from Porthmadog you can see why. However, that’s an illusion as Cnicht is a long ridge viewed head on rather than a true pyramidal peak. It’s still a classic hill walk, most popularly ascended from Croesor. The ascent is steep, with one section of easy scrambling not far below the summit. The summit is narrow, and provides views down into the valley on both sides.
If you’re looking for a full day’s walking then continuing on towards Moelwyn Mawr and Bach is recommended, with the former being the highest point in the southern Moelwynion.
More information – Cnicht and Moelwyn Mawr from Croesor
Moel Hebog is the picturesque Beddgelert’s very own mountain. Most will walk up, and straight back down, but after the effort taken it is well worth continuing on towards the subsidiary peaks of Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn. Moel yr Ogof is named after the location of Ogof Owain Glyndwr, with Ogof being welsh for cave. According to legend, Glyndwr hid out from the English in a cave on the side of the mountain. It’s not easy to find, and isn’t easy to get to once you do!
More information – Moel Hebog from Beddgelert.
Moel Siabod – Daear Ddu
Moel Siabod stands alone, high above Capel Curig. While it is a bit of a cliche to say the views are amazing or spectacular from any mountain, in this case it’s an understatement. From no other summit can you appreciate the Snowdon massif as you do from Moel Siabod. The best way up is via the Daear Ddu grade 1 scramble. Despite being the same grade as Crib Goch and Tryfan’s North Ridge, it’s nowhere near as technical and is among the easier grade 1 scrambles.
Those looking for something without scrambling can ascend from Plas y Brenin, where an easy to follow path takes you to the summit. Care is needed in poor visibility as the upper reaches can be difficult to find in mist.
While the highest mountain in Mid Wales (depending on how you define Mid Wales!) lacks the grandeur of Snowdon and Cader Idris, it makes up for it by being remote and the source of most of Wales’ great rivers. The Hafren (Severn), Afon Gwy (River Wye) and the Rheidiol all have their source on Pumlumon, which can also be rather damp underfoot in places. It is most popularly approached from the south from from Eisteddfa Gurig high on the A44 between Llangurig and Ponterwyd, but a more interesting approach would be from Nant y Moch
Pen y Fan
The highest mountain in South Wales is often climbed from the Storey Arms on what’s an overpopular and unspectacular path that’s mercifully short. Much better routes can be found from virtually any other direction, with the choice routes being either via the Cwm Llwch horseshoe from near Brecon, or the Horseshoe Walk from Cwm Taf Fechan to the south. Both routes end up joining the popular route for the final section to the summit, but that’s unavoidable, and you’ll have most of the ridge walks that lead up to Pen y Fan to yourself.
To the western end of the Brecon Beacons national park you’ll find the distinctive escarpments of Mynydd Du (Black Mountain) and Fan Brycheiniog. Not of course to be confused with the Black Mountains to the east of the park!
Black Mountains from Llanthony
Our final suggestion would have to be the Black Mountains, which are an extensive area of high ground on the border of Wales and England. This long walk (29km) from Llanthony follows both Offa’s Dyke National Trail and the border for the outward section along the wide and peaty summit plateau of Black Mountain. The Vale of Ewyas horseshoe is completed along the summit of Hay Bluff high above Hay-on-wye, Twmpa (or Lord Hereford’s Knob in English) and finally Chwarel y Fan before returning to Llanthony.
More information can be found on Mud and Routes – Black Mountain From Llanthony